Dream Portfolio Assignment, Too

  • Moderator

    I was inspired by @Erin-Cortese's excellent post to finally wrap my head around the Dream Portfolio exercise. (Thank-you, Erin!!)

    I'd listened to a podcast that encouraged us to collect imagery of our favorite artists, and had a file on my desktop for a long time. I slowly accumulated bookmarks in my browser of my favorite artists and it kept getting longer and longer and longer... When I watched the class vid about this assignment, I realized I was on the right track but I was delaying the inevitable. So, I took Shia LaBeouf's advice ("Doooo iiiittttt!!!!!) and... made choices.

    It was painful. LOL!

    So here's the dream portfolio of favorite imagery. I learned (and reinforced) a couple things:

    1. I am attracted to Art Nouveau-inspired work. No surprise there. I suspected that--I fell in love with Mucha when I saw a national tour of his work a long time ago (his theatre posters were painted life-size, by the way). This may be why I like swirly curvy lines contrasted with strong straight lines, as well as framing mechanisms like borders or vignette lighting.. It may also be why I'm attracted to "posed" figures that simply stand there... dramatically... emoting... <sigh>

    2. I prefer lots of tiny details and texture. Rogerio Coelho, Pamela Zagarenski, Anne and Janet Grahame Johnstone, and James Christensen seem to be masters of this in my opinion.

    3. I like epic drama in my artwork. No surprise there--I'm a theatre person. It seems to manifest with lots of darks contrasting with intense lights. Saturated colors contrasted with shadows or shades of grey.

    4. I seem to be attracted to both realistically proportioned humans and those made up of clear shapes for their silhouettes... Not sure what to think about that... But even the shapes are rendered with highlights and shadows and lots of detail.

    I'm looking and thinking about this now, and all I see are rudimentary elements that remind me of Klimt's Golden Phase... Without actually any Klimt? Does anyone else read that? And there's no actual Mucha either. I love their work but honestly, I have to say--I don't think either of them are actually storytellers in the contemporary sense of the word. Lovely art, yes. Gorgeously decorative to be sure. But not really storytellers...

    A reminder that double-clicking these images opens them up into much larger, easier to see images.


    And here's my own collection of 20 pieces I've done. I'm seeing a few loose similarities, but I may be trying really hard to make those connections when they aren't there... I can see now I need to break down and lean into figure construction.

    I also realized most of my pieces don't really tell stories, either. I'm "posing' things--hands, portraits, flowers... I need to work on that part.

    Anway, I'm gonna have to process all this... hehe... GREAT exercise @Lee-White. Really--going through this part of the process has been VERY enlightening. I feel like it's clear I have lots of room to grow.


  • I can relate. I'm drawn to illustration that has drama and a strong narrative, but I also tend to like drawing posed figures that would fall more in the "fine art" category. It's quite frustrating. I wish you luck in your portfolio journey.

  • Moderator

    So the next step in the process is to pick a couple of the images from your Dream Portfolio collection and try Master Studies of them.

    I very quickly realized some of the images I love are ones that I simply can't replicate yet--I don't have enough knowledge or experience regarding oils (digital or actual) to pull them off. The image by Yoann Lossel is beyond my capacities, as well as the image by James Christensen. Lesson learned: learn oils. I can't even do digital oils. Hm.

    So I backed up and started really examining them, and concluded I should bite the bullet and try one of my faves: the Beauty and the Beast image by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone. I looked at it carefully and realized it's probably a mix of watercolor and gouache--mediums which I'm much more comfortable with.

    I thought I'd share where I am in this--the sketchy sketch block-in is done, and then I threw in some temporary colors and miscellaneous fakey greenery just to play.

    Does anyone see anything weird in what I've done so far?


  • I am still recollecting my dream portfolio and I do not have nearly 20 work that corresponds to what Iโ€™d like to have. I am constantly going back and asking myself do I really love it and would I see myself creating this work for my dream, lols.

    Keep at it!

  • Moderator

    @Heather-Boyd Heather, I know exactly what you're talking about. Even after assembling it, I found a whole file of 300+ images I'd downloaded and forgotten to look at. It seems even when I took the time to try to be aware of all that's out there, there always seemed to be more I was excited about. It's like being in a candy store--"Oh, I really love those, but I love those, too, and those, and those, and those..." I felt like I was lopping off fingers trying to choose just twenty!!

    I had to just bite the bullet and think to myself, "I love this, but if I'm really being honest I love that one more." For me, it helped to go collect loads of imagery by artists that I loved instead of just individual images. And from there I was able to pare it down because I told myself I could only use 2 images each from the artists that I told myself were my absolute faves--which I had narrowed down to 5. From there, substituting a new favorite image for one of the images of the artists of which I had 2 images didn't seem so painful.

    Still, this portfolio project is going to evolve every time I fall in love with another piece. LOL! I'm gonna have to eat something from my plate and really dig into it before I go back for more. For a little while, anyway. But I'm gonna savor every dish from this all-you-can-eat buffet that I can. I've got a lifetime in this particular restaurant, so there's no rush. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Moderator

    @Coreyartus Good for you for jumping in and taking it on! I feel the same way that you do as far as ability goes. The master study I have chosen is beyond my ability and I am very intimidated by it and hesitant to start. Thanks for the motivation ๐Ÿ™‚

    You are doing a great job with this one so far. The one thing I did notice is the shape of the womanโ€™s face and direction of her gaze. Her face is more elongated than you have drawn it, and her gaze is off to the right rather than down at the instrument.

  • Moderator

    @Erin-Cortese I must have drawn her head twelve times trying to get it right!! LOL! It is the hardest part of the image for me and it has to be exactly right or the message of the image doesn't read--she has to be looking at him, of course!! LOL! It's angled back, too, so it looks like she's sort of leaning back and tilting her head out of curiosity to really study him... I'm gonna have to do it another twelve times, aren't I? LOL! I absolutely refuse to trace this stuff even though it would be very easy to do so digitally--that's totally defeating the entire point of the exercise.

    It's interesting how one subtle angle and an eye placement in an entire image full of intricate detail can simply flat out change everything. The image isn't really about the Beast at all. It's about her.

  • Moderator

    @Coreyartus Ugh, I can relate. I find character drawing very difficult. The smallest deviation when drawing heads and faces changes the entire character so dramatically. I find it very helpful to go back to basic shapes and then slowly add detail based small measurements within the shape. For me when I looked at her head I immediately saw a teardrop. If you can get the main shape right, it should be a little easier.


  • Moderator

    Well, I'm hoping I got her face correct... I also started putting in some color. I'm realizing the Johnstone's were really quite excellent at layering. Oof. The crispness of the edges is sometimes because of a contrast in values and sometimes because there's a fine line of a darker color underneath or around the edges of a lighter color. And it varies, because gouache is opaque. So they could both layer lights on darks and then go back in and put darks over lights. Or vice versa. LOL!

    It's making things interesting... hehe...


  • Moderator

    @Coreyartus Wow, this is looking great! The rendering looks incredibly difficult and time consuming, but it sounds like you have already learned quite a bit, which is amazing.

  • Moderator

    And the Beast is done. Whew! It's not perfect, but I've realized that my original blocking-in of shapes and lines was a bit off... I was able to correct it a bit by pushing things around with the Liquefy tool in Procreate, but I'm not sure ultimately whether that really discounts everything else I've learned. I'm really really liking this way of digital painting.

    My admiration for the Johnstone Sisters has increased exponentially--they either worked incredibly carefully by meticulously placing each stroke, or they just had an innate sense of what went where. I wonder how they worked with Art Directors... I would imagine fixing some things would be possible since it was gouache and one can easily cover things up and re-do things, but there's so much detail to repaint I'm sure they had to be very clear about their understanding of what they were painting from the very get-go.

    One thing I am noticing is that they made choices about where to put shading and highlights in this image. There is no real sense of where the source of light actually is. It's very flat in a lot of ways. Not all their work is like this but the vast majority of it is. Hm. If I were to emulate this style, I think I'd prefer to have a clear direction in the lighting that reads instantly. I think that might add a sense of maturity, depth, and drama maybe? Hm.

    Onwards to Beauty!!!


  • SVS Team SVS OG

    @Coreyartus It looks amazing so far. I need to do this myself as well.

  • SVS OG

    @Coreyartus woah! Youโ€™re doing so well! The beast looks just like the original. AMAZING!!! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ๐Ÿ˜ฎ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

  • Moderator

    Ok, Beauty has turned out to be much more of a beast to copy than the Beast. Argh!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I have learned multiple things when trying to copy Beauty:

    1. I do not know how to do fabric folds. Which is ironic, since I'm a costume designer and I should know. Construct them, yes. Draw them, no. Every time I try to draw drapey clothing, I remember I don't know squat about painting fabric.
    2. I especially don't know how to paint satin.
    3. I especially especially don't know how to paint satin in the style of the Johnstone Sisters.

    I approached this lots of ways--lights first then darks. Darks first then lights. Putting in a mid-range tone then working my way outward putting in lights and darks. No matter what I did, I realized figuring out the correct order was only part of the problem: there were also obvious washes that I couldn't figure out when they went in, as well as the little factor of emulating the hand of the brush strokes themselves...

    The more I looked at it the more I realized the dress's base color was probably the green color of the background, meaning all the highlights and shadows are actually painted on the background... All the lovely rounded forms and pleats and folds are created only with the placements of highlights and shadows, layed over the background color. I don't think there's a separate dress color at all. (!!!!!)

    I felt like the more I stared at it the more I became aware of things and the taller the wall grew I had to climb... Ignorance is bliss, folks. I just can't replicate it. I tried. I tired blocking in shapes but mine is just stilted by comparison. There's a flow, a graceful laying-in of paint that was obviously done by a gentle, flowing, knowing hand. And I just don't got it yet.


    I see now what I need to work on, and that's ultimately what this is all about, right?

    Next I will move on to the framing background of plants, grass, the little rabbit, and the little pink bird. There is a real organic quality to these things that I want to dig into deeper.


  • Moderator

    Whew. I'm done. The background was the hardest part. "Finished, not perfect."

    I learned that Procreate doesn't do watercolor the way I hoped. After almost a week of trying to force it. I ended up settling for a less precise match of everything, and decided the best I could hope for was something that simply wasn't obtrusive or stood out too much (in the context of things).

    I'm so glad this project is over! LOL! This last part was so much harder than anything else because the leaves seemed so much more organic than I could easily observe and translate (for some reason). It seemed the clothing had a logic to it that I could follow, and strongly contrasting areas and lines of color that were easily differentiated and replicated. Not so with the plants. I think I need to work on plants a bit more.

    I know I need to do a Masters Study of something that is very different from this piece, so I can learn different things, but with every class video and every project it seems like my laundry list of things to practice and wrap my head around gets longer and longer and longer. For every step forward it seems like I should first take two steps back before I even contemplate progressing. I don't have a deadline, per se, but I have to admit the mountain of things I don't know continues to grow higher and higher... hehe... Or at least, I'm becoming more aware of what I don't know. And I can't say I'm wise enough to not be frustrated--I think I had hoped things would just be... easier and faster.

    And it seems absolutely nothing has been easy. Nor fast. And I'm learning that I, personally, have to put up defenses and concentrate on one. thing. at. a. time.


    Johnstone Master Study.jpg

  • Moderator

    Well done, you!
    I want to add, now that Iโ€™m awake๐Ÿ˜œ, that I am impressed with you taking on this master study. I have been avoiding the tough images in my master line up but you have inspired me to step up and tackle one. Thankyou for sharing your progress on this. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Moderator

    @Coreyartus This looks fantastic, congratulations! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your progress throughout it, it has been really helpful. I was relieved to read your comments this morning, so much of what you said is what I have been feeling for awhile now. I have been very overwhelmed by the process of learning and I feel the list of skills I need to hone just gets longer and longer. I also find myself getting very frustrated, and I am beginning to realize it is more about how I am approaching the content than anything else. After my master study, my plan is to go back to basics and focus on one skill at a time. At the very least, I will be less overwhelmed!

  • SVS OG

    @Coreyartus amazing! It looks just like the original!

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